What is the difference between a chili dog and a coney dog?
Real coneys use ground beef heart and beef suet as the base for their coney sauce. They also have several spices added to it before it is simmered in a large pot. They are topped with mustard and onion. These types of coneys were founded in Jackson, Michigan back in the late 30's early 40's and most food historians credit this as the birthplace of coneys in America although Detroit, New York, and other places dispute that laying claim to their birth in America. Once you've had a Jaxon style coney dog like this you'll know the distinct difference between a coney and a chili dog.
Detroit style and most New York coneys are a runnier base. They are similiar to a chili dog except they have spices added to their sauce. They also are topped with onion and mustard. The texture is runny and the taste is different as not much ground meat is used. The flavor of the spices used, generally Greek, Hungarian, Macedonian, or some type of that kind of ethnic food, are often what people associate Coney Island diners with.
There are other places such as Flint that have a coney sauce similiar to the Jackson style but use a ground hamburger and Greek spice base for their sauce. They also are topped with onion and mustard. These are close to a Jackson coney in texture but have less tang with the absence of beef heart.
The rest of the country west of the midwest and south of New York that I've been generally just refers to chili dogs as coneys. Cincinatti is a perfect example. Their sauces, though good, are not true coney sauces. They are chili.
In my mind without beef heart being used in a grind you don't really have that tangy taste that I associate with a coney but the addition of Greek style spices even without the beef heart still make those types distinctly different from a regular chili dog. In the end what you associate as a coney is largely based on what region of the country you're from. If I can post some pictures here I will.
<message edited by Jamerican28 on Thu, 09/19/13 11:16 AM>